I’m probably getting really boring now but I’m going to start serialising the first novel I ever wrote, Dragon Rider, on here. In some ways, it’s my favourite book I’ve written; it was my first baby and took nearly ten years to write. So why am I sharing it? Well, it’s a good book (I know, I’m biased!) and it’s languishing at the bottom of Amazon’s rankings and I thought, sharing it here will mean a few more reads (hopefully).
Also, I thought it would be good to use it as a case study, so we can maybe discuss what is good about it, the bad points, the weak points. Let’s rip it apart and see what happens. As I’m sharing it, I thought I could also add some helpful tips for when you’re writing and also discuss method and character development and other things like that. So, let’s see where this journey take us (corny, I know :)).
I’m going to share it in cut up chunks, but not whole chapters. I thought it would be easier to break it up into easily digestible pieces.
It is said that a man with revenge in his heart should dig two graves; one for his enemy and one for himself. Perhaps this is true, but I’m not ready to take to my grave. Not yet.
I ask you; what do you do if there is no justice? If the law itself is rotten and corrupt. What then? Should we let those who do wrong get away with it, turn the other cheek to their crimes?
A scream exploded somewhere in the distance but broke off before it reached its terrifying conclusion. Another life sucked dry, thought Drake, as the bitter smell of blood rolled in on the mist, along with the dead leaves and the smell of decay. He pulled his black hood over his head and slunk back into the shadows like a black panther stalking its prey, his vivid green eyes alert, his body pumped for action.
There was movement in the alleyway opposite, a slight rustle of paper, a scraping sound. He stopped breathing momentarily, his hands curling into tight balls at his side as he listened harder. Had his senses failed him, were the Shadow Walkers really that close?
A rat emerged from the darkness and scuttled across the road. It ran halfway, stopped, sat up on its back legs and sniffed the air. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, it fled back to where it had come from.
Drake silently exhaled and allowed his body to relax, but only a little; no, his instincts hadn’t diminished, they were as sharp as the tip of a dragon’s tail; the full-bodied stench of the blood told him the Shadow Walkers were about four blocks away. And if he stayed here much longer they would smell him too.
A distant clock chimed midnight.
The witching hour. His informant should’ve been here half an hour ago.
He searched the shadows, tracing his eyes along the graffiti-covered wall and the overflowing bins that ran down the length of the narrow street. It had started to drizzle; he could see it falling at an angle in the light pooling around the streetlamps, like tiny shards of sparkling glass.
It was then he noticed a cloaked figure step into the light at the foot of one of the lamps. The figure stopped, glance behind briefly, then turned and walked towards Drake, the tip-tapping of their hurried footsteps on the wet pavement cutting through the silence of the brooding city.
Drake stepped forward, emerging from the shadow.
The footsteps stopped. ‘Drake, is that you?’ asked the figure.
Drake removed his hood and nodded.
The figure hurried forward, greeting Drake with a smile as she came to rest beside him. He could smell the floral notes of her perfume, it was fresh, only recently applied. He smiled to himself.
The woman removed her midnight blue hood, letting her auburn hair cascade down around her shoulders, the drizzle catching in it like diamonds. ‘Sorry I’m late, couldn’t get away,’ she said, taking a small white envelope from her silver handbag and giving it to him. ‘This is what you wanted.’
‘Thank you,’ he replied, taking the envelope from her and placing it in his coat pocket. He fetched out a small roll of green notes and handed it to the woman.
She took the notes and placed them in her bag, before clicking it shut. ‘I thought that you might like to know that the dwarves are out looking for the offender too,’ she said, through thick red lips, her pale blue eyes scrutinizing his every move.
‘Well, we’ll have to make sure we get Pyro first then, won’t we?’ he said smiling; a cool smile that said he’d had enough of talking.
‘Nice doing business with you,’ she said, placing the velvet hood carefully back over her head, ‘until next time.’ The woman nodded once, turned, and headed back into the night.
Drake waited until she had disappeared from sight and her footsteps had finally faded away, before he took the envelope back out from his pocket. He tore it open, took out the piece of thin copier paper and unfolded it carefully. Inside lay a small silver dot, no bigger than the head of a drawing pin, which Drake carefully peeled off the paper before placing it on his forehead.
Immediately the picture of a familiar djinn rotated in front of him, a crooked smile upon his brown face, as he turned, again and again, holding an Enforcerer’s crime number under his chin.
A recording of the woman’s voice began to speak to him from the Memory Spot on his head. ‘This is Pyro,’ she whispered, as though she were recording the message in secret, ‘our intell is telling us that he is hitting the Museum of Magickal Artefacts this morning, at around one o’ clock. Be safe.’ Then suddenly the voice and the image of Pyro disappeared along with the Memory Spot that had dissolved into Drake’s skin.
Drake grinned; he knew this job was going to be easy as he’d took Pyro into the Law Department on two other occasions already in the short while he’d been back in Devilsgate. The guy was a nuisance; a pyromaniacal low-life, but he was no criminal mastermind. The intelligence was strangely specific – but Drake put this down to the djinn’s stupidity; he wasn’t the brightest spark in the box and he had a tendency to spout his mouth off so it wouldn’t have surprised Drake if one of his associates had dropped him in it.
For once it was all good news, the specific timing of the intelligence meant that there was plenty of time to put the dwarves out of action before he picked Pyro up. He hated the dwarves and one day they would pay for their crimes, but for now, he’d have to be content with outsmarting them and claiming the bounty on Pyro’s head before they did, for he had other, greater, things on his mind at this precise moment. Their time would come, of this he was sure.
Drake cupped his hands around his mouth and called once into the night, a short deep rumbling call, like that of a lion marking its territory, and then he waited.
Within seconds an identical call answered him and Falkor broke his cover, swooping out of the thick cloud that had been asphyxiating the City for as many years as Drake could remember. Just like Fenrik. The dragon silently landed on the pavement beside Drake, shook his huge head to dispel the beads of water clinging to his thick turquoise beard, and snorted.
Drake found a tight grip in Falkor’s shaggy crest fur and hauled himself up onto his bare back, tucking his legs in either side of the dragon’s body, just behind his wings.
Falkor stretched out his azure wings and the light from the street lamps diffused through his paper-thin skin, highlighting the network of dark blue veins and bones that knitted them together. He arched his muscular tail, pushed his back legs hard into the ground and propelled himself into the night.
It was time to hunt.
For now, Falkor would keep low to the ground: The rain had sent the Shadow Walkers fleeing for cover and the smell of blood was fading fast as the rain washed the streets clean. For a while, at least, Devilsgate would be a little safer.
They glided over the sleeping streets full of the remnants of the day’s festivities; brightly coloured confetti, Devil’s masks and fat orange pumpkins with grotesque faces carved into them; the people’s attempt to appease the evil forces that had Devilsgate on its knees.
Suddenly Falkor gave a short warning growl and Drake felt the dragon’s body tense under him. Drake flicked his eyes over the area below and immediately he was drawn to the sight of two dwarves standing beside a racing-green motorbike with a sidecar. A third dwarf, slightly taller and far uglier than the other two, straddled a gleaming Harley Davidson his squat body struggling to keep the bike upright.
As Drake drew nearer, he could see the smaller dwarves were huddled around a small black box from which a sharp female voice was screaming at them to turn right.
‘Stupid box!’ snapped the dwarf with fuzzy grey hair and a red Rock City t-shirt.
‘Give it ’ere,’ said the other dwarf snatching it out of his hands and giving it a good shake. ’Nah, it’s no good. I can hear something rattling inside it. We’re gonna have to get another one Scarface -’
‘I don’t think so,’ cut in the dwarf on the Harley. He looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger but in miniature, with the addition of long fuzzy hair and a blonde beard.
‘Look, Boss, it’s telling us to go right but as you can see there’s a blinking great big canal there!’
Drake tightened his hand in Falkor’s crest fur and the dragon shifted position; his head pointing towards his target, wings folded back. Drake leaned into him, their bodies forming a living bullet hurtling towards the dwarves. Then, just before impact, Falkor extended his back legs, opened his azure wings and silently landed behind them.
‘Still using Satellite technology? I would’ve thought that with all your successful bounty hunting you could afford to buy something a little more up to date?’ asked Drake.
Scarface ran a leather gloved hand over his garnet studded beard. ‘Look what’s just turned up boys,’ he spat, ‘I thought I could smell something rotten.’ He put his hand up to his nose as if to emphasise the point.
Ozzy and Elvis, the two dwarves with the GPS, were now staring at Falkor with hungry eyes.
‘Better watch your dragon,’ said Elvis fingering the dragons’ teeth strung around his neck on a black cord, ‘we lost him once and we won’t do that again.’
Ozzy, his pot belly bulging over his scuffed leather trousers, looked at their battered motorbike and then back to Falkor, his eyes wide with longing.
‘Looking for Pyro?’ asked Drake.
Scarface sat motionless on his bike, his face cold and passive.
‘Pity you haven’t got wings!’ said Drake, digging his heels into Falkor’s scaly side. The dragon responded by launching himself rapidly into the inky sky. ‘See yah!’ shouted Drake over his shoulder as they glided over the canal’s murky water.
Behind him, Drake could hear swearing as the dwarves raced to get their bikes started. ‘I don’t know why they bother,’ said Drake, shaking his head, ‘they don’t stand a chance. Falkor, let’s play!’
The dragon tilted right, turning into a square lined with smart Victorian buildings. He stopped mid-air, his wings beating slowly, silently, like a Hover-copter.
Drake scanned the area for their quarry.
But he wasn’t searching for Pyro. Not yet.
A dull throbbing sound began to draw nearer. ‘Any second now Falkor…GO!’ shouted Drake, as Scarface, closely followed by Ozzy and Elvis, shrouded in a cloud of smoke, burst into the square below them.
‘YOU WON’T WIN FAERY-BOY,’ bellowed Scarface to the sky, ‘THIS ONE’S OURS!’
Drake dug his heels into Falkor’s side and the dragon swept out of the square, the growling of the motorbikes a few seconds behind.
Falkor tore down the broad streets lined with towering apartment blocks and glass-fronted offices, he flew so low that his three-inch claws brushed the tops of the bare-branched trees that decorated the sides of the road. Drake could see the lamplight bouncing off the pavement like millions of little diamonds, the day’s newspapers and confetti clogging up the stinking drains.
Drake gently pulled on Falkor’s fur so that the dragon swept right onto New Street. He knew that the dwarves were following them as planned; he could hear the low drone of their machines, but now he was getting bored of his parasites.
Falkor knew the drill; he threw himself at the end of the road and straight towards the Council House sitting directly at the end of it. Then, just when it looked as if he would collide with the building, Falkor extended his azure wings and stretched out his feet in front of him like brakes. The dragon stopped for a quarter of a second before tucking his wings back into his body then propelling himself skywards like a missile.
There was the screeching of brakes, the smell of burnt rubber and the usual thick clouds of smoke.
Drake chuckled. Yes, dwarves were really that stupid.
Falkor turned a sharp right into a small square, surrounded by the extravagant architecture of the University, and dived towards the ground, heading for the narrow road on the other side. At the end of this short road the dragon banked left and then, almost immediately, he turned right and headed straight for the multi-storied car park.
As they drew closer Falkor folded his wings into his body and aimed for the small mouth of the car park. They burst through the entrance, Falkor’s azure head narrowly missing a chunky concrete support, and over the roofs of the expensive cars and ultra-fast motorbikes, until suddenly they were exploding over the top of the concrete barrier at the end of the building and flying into the open space beyond.
Time seemed to stop as Drake and Falkor hung in the air before the dragon flicked his agile body around and reared up like a horse.
Drake saw Scarface jumping from his bike and then racing over to the barrier, his face as red as the blood-soaked mouths of the Shadow Walkers. ‘YOU WON’T GET AWAY WITH THIS FAERY-BOY!’ he shouted.
‘Pardon?’ said Drake, holding his hand to his ear, ‘I can’t stop to talk, need to find Pyro before he causes too much damage and as you’re not going to get there in time…’ Drake shrugged, his broad smile clearly visible.
‘Come on Falkor, let’s stop teasing the little mice,’ he said turning back to the dragon and patting the side of his head.
Falkor snorted his approval and took off again into the black sky. But this time he climbed higher so that they could scan a wider area. Not that they would have to look too hard; Pyro was usually easy to spot whenever he was up to no good.
Drake could make out the outline of the Museum in the distance; its grand burnished copper dome, the clock tower that adorned the west wing and the luscious gardens that surrounded it.
And there, in the gardens, a speck of orange glowed in the darkness.